Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Day Eight: Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) - Rank 3.5/5


This was a film long recommended by my friend Bennett and long shunned by me. Well, I suppose shunned is a harsh word. I suppose "disinterested" would be more accurate. I'd been prompted to watch it on more than one occasion, but I resisted because I have such a love/hate relationship with Tom Hanks' comedic roles. The first time or two I watch his earlier films, I find them hilarious (Big, Splash, The Money Pit), but they lose their entertainment value for me upon repeat viewings (unlike many other comedies - Dr. Strangelove, The Producers (1968) or The Pink Panther Strikes Again). I think a large part of the problem is he tends to play the same, basic character in each one of his films - a poor schmuck, a down-on-his-luck but likable everyday Joe. Thankfully, this film takes that basic role and pushes it as far as it can by making Tom Hanks the most entertainingly depressed hypochondriac he can be.

The entire opening sequence is fabulous as Joe approaches an Orwellian workplace in a zombielike manner matched by hundreds of coworkers. Dan Hedaya delightfully chews the scenery to shreds as his neurotic boss and Lloyd Bridges devours what's left when he hits the scene (his role is that of a billionaire offering Tom Hanks the opportunity to unlimited cash in exchange for jumping into a volcano - you see, Joe was diagnosed with a terminal disease and...well, I think you already get the picture. He's given the chance to live like a king before dying like a man, so to speak). I was even surprised that I found Meg Ryan so tolerable considering she played three roles in the film (the first of which was practically unrecognizable).

The film itself has some great humor. I recall laughing uncontrollably at everything that took place at Joe's work. However, that could also stem from a desire for my boss to be Dan Hedaya. Oh...that would solve everything...

...but I digress. The script by director John Patrick Shanley (the same writer/director of "Doubt" if you can believe it) offers ample laughs along the way, though they tapered off noticeably as it came time for Joe to carry out his destiny. Still, all in all I found it a charming film. I can't say if I could get multiple viewings out of it, but I certainly have a desire to see it at least once more.

Watch the Trailer

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